Millennials Are Buying Fewer Cars, but Not for the Reasons Most Believe

buying a car (select to view enlarged photo)

RESTON, VA--October 18, 2013: Resonate, the only company that lets marketers act on why people make decisions, has revealed key motivations behind why millennials are buying fewer cars. And, contrary to many of the reasons cited in hundreds of articles and reports, the bottom line is clear – they don’t have enough money to buy vehicles due to the continuing weak economy.

“Our new insights into millennials and cars illustrate the clear dangers in relying solely on demographic generalizations to create marketing and advertising messages”

Delivered this morning by CEO Bryan Gernert at the J.D. Power 2013 Automotive Marketing Roundtable, the new insights show that 10% more millennials are unemployed, while 14% are underemployed as compared to the adult online population, making it difficult to purchase a car. The research also unearths what millennials value when they do buy vehicles, providing guidance to auto industry marketers on how to best reach them.

Resonate debunks the generalization that millennials are the “greenest generation,” and thus less likely to buy a car. When they do make the purchase, environmental impact is not a top concern: while millennials are 40% more likely than the 35+ population to use social media to criticize a company related to environmental impact issues, they fail to walk the talk. For example, 15% fewer millennials than the 35+ population say fuel economy is important to them, while 17% fewer say they recycle. And, millennials without cars are even less green, as they are 29% less likely than those who have cars to buy green products, and they also recycle less.

“Our new insights into millennials and cars illustrate the clear dangers in relying solely on demographic generalizations to create marketing and advertising messages,” said Gernert. “Digging deeper to understand why actions are taken is critical for auto marketers to better identify and engage audiences. The millennial audience has not uniformly rejected the notion of car ownership, but rather face harsh economic reality that makes it even more important for auto marketers to better understand them.”

Many argue that millennials only care about themselves, and thus favor cars that are fun and exciting. And, while it is true that large segments value innovation (15%) and fun/excitement (14%), they have a much stronger desire for cost-effectiveness (39%) and dependability (53%). Yet, no one talks or writes about millennials wanting dependable cars.

When they get around to buying a car, millennials are more likely to own Toyotas and Hondas. However, when voicing purchase intent, Ford gains ground, although it still trails Toyota and Honda.

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